In our latest interview with Instructor Natalie O’Brien we discuss the difference between ballet and barre, the benefits of private vs group classes and embarrassing moments as an instructor! Based in South London, ex professional dancer Natalie teaches Yoga, Ballet and Barre – a different kind of triple threat. Here’s what she had to say:
How did your career as an instructor begin?
I started by creating a bespoke barre method that encompassed my favourite elements of ballet, yoga and Pilates. I created a class and taught it alongside my dance career in my local area. Through teaching these classes I developed a love for working with people and helping improve their physical and mental health and wellbeing. Having practiced yoga since I was a teenager, I then decided to further my training and took part in a yoga teacher training course with Yoga London.
You used to be a dancer, how did your days differ then from now?
No two days were ever the same in my career as a dancer! I performed on stage, at events, on TV, film and much more. I had a very fast paced, last minute lifestyle – often flying abroad with as little as one or two days notice. It was exciting but also quite demanding. Part of the reason for my move into the wellness industry was to give myself more routine and stability. I now have a little more structure and have several classes that I teach on a weekly basis in and around London.
Has your performing experience helped you with your transition into teaching?
My performance experience gave me a great advantage when starting out as a teacher. I have spent most of my life in a studio environment so feel very comfortable and at home there! Although I am confident performing to big audiences on stage, teaching is a lot more intimate and I think I will always be a little bit nervous before every class! Having said this, I like the nervous, excited feeling I get right before a class starts. It shows me I have passion and determination to give my clients the best class possible!
Could you explain for anyone who’s unsure, what the difference is between ballet and barre?
I teach ballet in its traditional form. The class usually starts with classical exercises at the barre and then moves in to the centre of the room. Ballet is a dance class practiced to music where we work on fluidity of movement, artistry and classical form. Although Barre includes elements of ballet and its terminology, the two classes are very different.
Barre classes are exercises classes that combine fitness, ballet, yoga and Pilates. You don’t need any dance experience to take part in a barre class and you won’t be asked to do any leaps or pirouettes!
You teach Yoga, Ballet and Barre – give us a brief overview of each type of class…
Yoga is a practice that focuses on connecting the mind and body. Using a combination of physical postures in tune with controlled breath we will work to quieten the mind, open our hearts and focus our energy. My yoga classes are nourishing, light hearted and most importantly open to everybody.
Barre is a unique blend of ballet, fitness, yoga and Pilates techniques. Barre classes offer an effective workout for the whole body, focusing on alignment, core strength, flexibility and muscle tone. My barre classes are fun, uplifting and challenging with modifications and variations thrown in to cater to all abilities.
Ballet is a world-renowned style of dance that has been performed for centuries. Ballet gives us freedom of expression and creativity through sequencing movement. Ballet sculpts the body to be long, lean and strong. My ballet classes allow you to connect with your inner ballerina and find the joy of dancing.
What has your proudest career moment been so far?
Earlier this year I taught a handful of charity yoga classes in association with Breast Cancer Now. I feel really proud to have been chosen to be involved in such an amazing event and lucky to be able to raise money for a charity very close to my heart, by doing what I love.
Have you had any embarrassing moments while teaching?
I was once offering a hands-on assist during ‘Savasana’ (the part at the end of a yoga class where you lie on the floor with your eyes closed and relax), and as I was massaging my students head I noticed the tiny ring I was wearing on my little finger had got caught up in her beautifully curly hair! I had to very gently wiggle my finger out of the ring and then wait until the end of the class to apologise and try to free the ring from her hair. Luckily the lady was very kind and thought it was hilarious but I taught myself a big lesson there. No jewellery while teaching!
You teach studio classes and private sessions – what is the main benefit of private classes over groups?
The beauty of a 121 class is that I have time to really get to know the client and devise a programme that will help them achieve exactly what they want from the sessions. It is great to be able to go in to more detail with my explanations and give more tailor-made instructions.
What do you do when you’re not teaching?
I love getting out of London to the countryside when I have a couple of days off. A fresh air woodland walk followed by a cosy cuppa snuggled up in blankets makes me really happy!
And finally…do you have any secret talents?
I was recently given a bright purple ukulele by my Dad. I have been slowly trying to teach myself how to play it and practicing in between classes! I wouldn’t describe it as a talent just yet but I hope one day it will be!
Find out more about Natalie and check out her teaching schedule here.